As we plow forward with building more kick ass authentic saunas in our world, the topic of what particular wood species for our hot rooms is a hot topic. And it is very important to use the right kind of wood in our hot rooms. For example, what is eastern white cedar? I’m pleased to bring into the fold my friend Scott. Scott comes to us with many years of experience in the sauna industry. Here is Scott’s explanation of cedar:
I have never heard of Eastern White Cedar. I wonder if it could be what is more commonly identified as Northern White Cedar? Or Eastern Red Cedar (aka Aromatic Cedar) is another one it could be and the only Cedar I’ve known to have the “eastern” name in it. If it is Eastern Red Cedar I would avoid it as this is the one that has the pungent smell (often associated w/ “Cedar Closets” and “Cedar Chests”), it reminds me of a hamster cage smell. The other downsides to ERC is that the boards tend to be very streaky and zebra-like which I personally think looks bad.
The two “cedars” that I would strongly discourage using in a sauna application are Aromatic Cedar (Eastern Red Cedar) and Incense Cedar (sometimes called California Cedar). This article may help you in making your decision if you are considering Cedar for your sauna. As always, I encourage the use of clear Cedar. If you are trying to keep costs down, knotty Cedar will work fine for walls but clear Cedar should be used for benches and backrests at a minimum.
I am completely overjoyed with using cedar lap siding as an exterior siding for an outdoor sauna. Cedar lap siding is all natural, lasts a long time, looks great no matter what siding is on your primary dwelling, helps to visually create an Up North backyard retreat, and reflects the beauty and aura of the tongue and groove cedar inside your sauna.
As of this writing, Cedar dog ear fence pickets cost $1.80/lineal foot 1×6 tongue and groove Western red cedar is running $3.55/lineal foot. (Source: Menards.) With some resourceful digging via Craigslist, etc. we often are able to find #3 grade tongue and groove at lower price.
As a sauna builder with a commercial account at a lumber wholesaler, I am able to purchase 1×6 Western Red Cedar at about $1.85/lineal foot. This is about the same price that one can find the product on Craigslist, via discount suppliers.
With this pricing, it costs about $1200 to panel a typical sauna hot room with 1×6 Western red cedar. #2 grade knotty. It would cost about $600, maybe less, to panel a hot room with Cedar dog ear fence pickets.
We are talking about apples and oranges in these respects.
Cedar dog ear fence pickets are:
- Thinner. About 1/2″ thick.
- Not tongue and grooved. Something to consider.
- Advertised as “Japanese Cedar.”
I have found no detailed information on Japanese Cedar via the Googlator. Japanese Cedar fence pickets have performed really well for me. I have noted no weirdness. I have had great results using cedar fence panels for trim and cedar duck boards. Matter of fact, I prefer this stock for trim. Cedar fence panels are thin. I like thin trim as it has a lower profile. Lower profile means that trim doesn’t stick out as far. This means there is less chance of rubbing against trim.
For those looking for money saving tips for building their saunas, I encourage you to look into Cedar dog ear fence pickets. For those who have already built their saunas, looking to build duck boards, fix trim, enhance their saunas with additional features, I encourage you to look into Cedar dog ear fence pickets.
When I purchased Cedar dog ear fence pickets, I spent the extra time digging through the pile, grabbing pieces with as few knots as possible. Caution: If using cedar dog ear fence pickets to panel a sauna, it is super important to:
- Foil vapor barrier your hot room well.
- Cut boards just a little longer than you need them.
- Then take a sauna with them before you make your final cuts.
This will allow your cedar fence panels to “kiln dry,” and shrink down their final size. You can stack your cedar fence panels using spacers. As you sauna with your cedar fence panels, you will notice that they talk back a lot less than your buddies do. Like with wearing gym shorts, we want to avoid shrinking as much as we can, otherwise gaps will look embarrassing.